Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin mother and child
Holy Infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.
Dear People of God,
Stille Nacht, the classic hymn for Christmas Eve, was inspired by silence. As the story goes, in the year 1818, there was a disruption at St. Nikolaus Church in Oberndorf, Germany. The organ was silent. It was out of operation and would not be ready to play for Christmas Eve. In this way things would not be the same that year.
Josef Mohr, the assistant priest, would have to improvise. And so, he wrote the words to Stille Nacht. And then, with the help of the parish musician, put it to music. But with guitar instead of organ. This hymn, which in English we call “Silent Night”, has stood the test of time. Two centuries later it remains a staple to nearly all Christians. It has been found of benefit in communicating that refreshingly good news about God in Christ we so desperately need to hear.
The truth is, we need silence in our hearts. The many talking heads of the devil would not let us have an ounce of peace if they could help it. The noisy racket of the world around us and of our own flesh threaten to snuff us out. And it would happen, we would succumb to despair (the power of death), if God did not shut them all up! To us it would be impossible. Thankfully the promise in matters of salvation is, “for God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27). As it is, God saw it fit to become a human being, born of the virgin Mary. This Holy Infant is at once both God and a human being. Through him we know God’s redeeming grace.
Silent Night many times gets a bad rap these days. The critique is that babies are loud, they scream, they cry, they need constant attention. Critics will say that to depict baby Jesus as “tender and mild” takes away from his full humanity. Now it is true that babies need constant attention. It is true that they are messy and loud and in need of so much—and the only way they can communicate that is to cry. It was this way with baby Jesus. But it is also true, that there are moments of silence. Moments when a baby is content and has all needs met. There is a peace there. And this too is true of the infant Jesus. I would say that it is this aspect of Jesus that we need to hear this year. In 2020, our lives have been disrupted. The world is chaos.
Silent Night, Holy Night testifies to a “the peace of God beyond all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). The Lord does the impossible, he stills our restless hearts. He knows our needs more than we know them ourselves. He knows them before we even ask. Christmas is a chance to observe our Lord Jesus as he is. As the Holy One, in the flesh, who brings heavenly peace to a troubled earth. Just as the Lord use Josef Mohr when he encountered disruption, so may the Lord use you and me this disrupted year—to bring heavenly peace to each other. Lord still our hearts until they are still in you.
Peace and joy,
Pastor Levi Powers
Mount of Olives Lutheran Church
Rock Springs, WY